Alex Bentley continues to produce good quality food at the Petersham. The view from the dining room over the river is especially impressive at lunch time on a clear day, and was at this meal matched by clean flavours and precise technique from the kitchen.
The menu was £25.75 for a three course lunch. The wine list has a wide spread of regions and has plenty of choice under £30. Choices include Riesling Mitchell from the Clare valley 2008 at £27.50 for a wine you can pick up retail for around £9, Chateau Kirwan 2004 for £69 compared to a shop price of around £26, up to the relative bargain of the lovely Latour 1978 at £285, which will set you back around £239 to buy in a shop. This was not the only kind mark-up at the high end, with the superb Pichon Longeuville 1990 at £195 for a wine you will struggle to find below £224 in the shops i.e. essentially below its retail value (really just a fraction over retail once you consider the service charge that the wine will attract on the bill). We drank the excellent Chateau Musar 2000 for just over £50 compared to a retail price of around £19. This is definitely a list to consider splashing out on.
This was the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, so it seemed appropriate to try the unusual idea of tandoori rabbit, served on a bed of pilau rice, coriander yoghurt and a shallot bhajia on the side. This worked well, the rabbit tender and working fine with the restrained spice marinade, the rice had good texture and the coriander yoghurt gave a pleasant cooling effect. The bhajia was of a subtler flavour than usual at your high street tandoori due to the use of shallots rather than onions (14/20).
My main course was roasted loin of venison with a mushroom duxelle along with walnuts, sweet potatoes and a sauce if balsamic and chocolate. The use of chocolate to thicken a sauce is something that is by no means restricted to Mexican cooking, and I have experienced it plenty of times in French restaurants. When, as here, the amount is limited and balanced by (in this case) the balsamic, it works well, the effect textural rather than leaving any sweetness of taste in the sauce. The venison itself was cooked carefully and had nice flavour, and the duxelle went well with the meat (comfortably 15/20, pushing 16/20).
Rum baba is a classic that is tough to get right, it being very easy to result in a dry texture that resembles a bread roll. The example here was as it should be done, moist and with a pleasant hint of rum poured over it, served with a crème Chantilly (15/20). Service was reasonable, though despite a quiet lunchtime service a glass of wine arrived well after the dish it was to go with, while topping up of wine was generally OK. However the overpouring of the mineral water almost to the brim in the glasses to allow a bit of selling with a cheery “another bottle?” was not something that was welcome. Overall this was a very enjoyable experience, the cooking of a high standard and a lovely view to go with it. As on my previous visit, service was sloppier that it should have been. I have enjoyed Alex Bentley’s cooking over many years dating back to Monsieur Max days, and he seems on good form here.
The notes below are from a dinner in March 2007.
The dining room has a spectacular view from Richmond Hill (at least it would have during the day or on a summer evening) in the Petersham hotel. Tables were well spaced and laid out with white linen tablecloths. Bread was very pleasant, slices of white (least good) brown and rye, all served warm and having good texture. The British menu is appealing and is simpler than that of Monsieur Max, where Alex Bentley used to cook until a couple of years ago. The wine list is not vast but is sensibly put together and with markups that are less fierce than central London, featuring good growers like Guigal and Coldstream Hills.
The breads are bought in from Delice de France and reheated, but none the worse for that. Amuse-bouche was perhaps the best dish of the evening: courgette soup in a little cup topped with a sliver of excellent courgette tempura, alongside a pair of quail eggs resting in a barquette and coated with a Hollandaise sauce, the barquette on a duxelle of mushrooms. Technique was spot on here, the pastry of the barquette very good, the Hollandaise well balanced and avoiding the excess acidity which is all too easy to allow (16/20).
Seared scallops and smoked eel featured two scallops (actually slices of a scallop) that were cooked correctly but were not of the highest standard; better was smoked eel, with a cauliflower beignet and a little meat jus (14/20). Brown shrimp cocktail brought back memories of Monsieur Max, here served in a bowl with lettuce, a little tomato and well made Marie Rose sauce (14/20). A generous fillet of halibut was steamed, and was fresh and well timed, served with crab ravioli and tender white beans with horseradish and on a bed of mixed herbs and spinach (15/20). Seared fillet of John Dory also had good fish, with endive coated in a cheese topping with black truffle and confit of ratte potato that for me did not work well as I felt that the potatoes were undecooked (14/20 overall, mainly due to the potato).
Cheese was served on a board and had a sensible number of cheeses from Premier Cheese. Comte was actually in better condition than the one I had last night at Gordon Ramsay (who uses the same supplier). Epoisses was not yet quite ripe but Stilton was in good condition (an average of 15/20 for the cheeses). These were served with a few biscuits rather than bread. For dessert I had ice creams and sorbets presented in a tuile basket with some fruit. The tuile was a nice idea but really - strawberries in March? The chocolate ice cream had good flavour but the vanilla lacked much vanilla flavour, while apple sorbet was too mushy in texture (13/20). Better was assiette of orange, with a good crème brulee, excellent delicate orange jelly served in a glass and nice orange syrup cake (15/20). Coffee, both filter and espresso, was pleasant, served with a few chocolates (15/20).
Service was generally good, though one waiter tried to bluff that the breads were home made when they were clearly not (and even after I asked him to check tried to claim that one of the breads was home made), while the waiter serving the cheese had little idea what the cheeses were e.g. he did not know which Stilton was on offer, and appeared to have the names of the cheeses written on his hand. Still, overall this was a very pleasant experience, and the price was fair for the level of cooking on display. Definitely a place to consider if in the Richmond area.Book